3 Lessons Learned: Finding Peace in the Midst of Tragedy

It’s been a very depressing couple of months. The Aurora movie theater shooting, Hurricane Sandy’s devastation, the Oregon mall shooting and, just last Friday morning, the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, which left 20 first graders and six women dead.I really don’t know what to say. I’m struggling between the forces of depression and heartache and somehow trying to salvage the joy of the holidays.

It hasn’t been easy and there have been a lot of tears this weekend. Grieving, I go right to mental pictures of my own two children as first graders – so full of joy and innocence. I tiptoe up to the brink of putting myself in their parents’ shoes. It’s a place I cannot fully go – the mere thought searing me with a fear too gruesome to face.

All I can do is rely on the lessons I’ve learned from my own personal losses:

Honor Your Grief: Grief must have its way. I visualize it flowing through me, its current moving with an awesome power I cannot control. I am not powerless, however, because simply letting it pass allows me to withstand and survive it. I know this because I’ve done it before, just as I know I will have to withstand it again.

Pace Yourself: Don’t get stuck wallowing in other people’s grief. I can’t sustain the trauma of 24/7 news coverage. I cannot listen to countless interviews and minutia details and endless suffering. I do not need the media to push every emotional button I have to know I am hurting. We are emotional, empathetic beings, but constant rubbing raw does not bring healing.

Find the Helpers: When I look back on 9/11, I remember the enormity of the loss and the enormity of the humanity that rose up against it. So many people responded to help and work around the clock to do whatever they could. My tears of grief often mixed with tears of gratitude for their service.

Since Friday, this wonderful piece of advice from Mr. Rogers has been circulating the internet:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.

The helpers let us see that there is still much good in the world. They give us hope and comfort and help us regain our sense of security. And, when we follow their lead and become helpers ourselves, we take back some sense of control.

I find the helper in me by donating to Hurricane Sandy relief and praying for the victims, family, friends and first responders in Newtown. More suggestions for helping the Newtown victims can be found here.

Happy New Year and I wish you peace of heart, comfort and joy this holiday season. I doubt I’ll be writing a blog post next week, and maybe not the week after. I think I need some time to pull inward, spend time with my family and let the grief flow through me when the current gets strong.

Survival > Existence,


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